Kicking Your Way to Fitness.
Cardio-kickboxing can shape you up -- if you do it right.
May 1, 2000 (Reno, Nev.) -- Every few years, a new class takes the fitness
world by storm. In the late eighties Jane Fonda and her ponytail-bobbing,
leg-warmer-wearing aerobics classes were all the rage. In the early nineties,
the step bench was introduced and heart-pounding step aerobics quickly became
the yardstick by which all other sweat-and-spandex endeavors were measured. Now
there's cardio-kickboxing, offered by nearly 80% of health clubs
Sometimes called boxing aerobics or just plain kickboxing, cardio-kickboxing
is a hybrid of boxing, martial arts, and aerobic dance that offers a
high-intensity, aggression-releasing workout without the mind-numbing boredom
that can come with some other gym-bound activities. But even this fad comes
with a drawback: While its popularity continues to rise, so do reports of
injuries. With cardio-kickboxing, it's especially wise to get some basic
training info before you start throwing punches.
Why the Kickboxing Craze?
According to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE),
cardio-kickboxing participants can expect to burn an average of 350 to 450
calories per hour and maintain a heart rate at 75% to 85% of maximum, well
within the recommended 65% to 85% range for aerobic exercise. An hour-long
session is roughly equivalent to an hour of brisk walking or light jogging. But
cardio-kickboxing has a distinct advantage -- it's a truly versatile,
cross-training workout. Neither of the pedestrian activities improves strength,
flexibility, coordination, and reflexes the way cardio-kickboxing does.
"You burn tons of calories and get into terrific aerobic shape without
having to run miles and miles," says Dan Hamner, MD, a sports medicine and
rehabilitation specialist who works with competitive fighters and martial
artists in New York City.
Unlike the incessant step-kick-repeat combinations you're likely to master
in step aerobics class, the moves in cardio-kickboxing actually can have some
real-life application. As you punch, jab, and protect your face from an
(imagined) attacker, you're learning to protect yourself, only without the
bruises. By practicing some simple self-defense moves in a fun atmosphere, many
people -- women especially -- gain a greater sense of empowerment and
But you needn't have the desire to smack someone to participate. The only
punches you'll throw in most cardio-kickboxing classes are into the air while
you jog in place or shuffle from side to side; some classes provide punching
bags, but this is the exception, not the rule.
Don't Let an Injury Put You on the Ropes
If step aerobics can be hell on your knees, careless cardio-kickboxing fans
may wind up with other creaky parts. In fact, with kickboxing, there's a fairly
significant risk of injury. Participants throw punches with such gusto that
their elbows, shoulders, knees, and lower backs often pay the price. Extensor
tendonitis (commonly called "tennis elbow"), overuse injuries of the
knee, and strained groin and back muscles top the list of injuries, says
Hamner, who's also a spokesperson for the American College of Sports